June 7th is the date when teams can begin playing competitive fixtures again
The West Cork League will organise summer competitions if there is sufficient interest amongst the region’s clubs.
The HSE and Government’s easing of level 5 restrictions permitted the return of full contact training for all adult and youth sports teams this past week. Through their official website, the FAI confirmed that all players at all levels of football in Ireland can engage in full contact outdoor training, in pods of 15 inclusive of coaches, from Monday, May 10th.
June 7th is the next significant date on the amateur sporting calendar when teams can begin playing competitive fixtures.
Unsurprisingly, players, coaches and supporters of West Cork League and West Cork Schoolboys and Schoolgirls League clubs are delighted to have taken another important step back towards normality.
So what happens next?
In terms of adult and youth (U18/19) players, the West Cork League last completed a round of league fixtures on the first weekend of October 2020. That was the opening Sunday of the new 2020-21 campaign before a complete cessation of training and playing activities came into effect. Sadly, the WCL season was over before it had a chance to properly begin.
‘The West Cork League Committee plans on making contact with every one of our clubs over the next two weeks to ascertain what they would like to do,’ WCL Chairman Tim O’Donovan told The Southern Star.
‘Depending on what our clubs say, reduced league and cup competitions are a possibility during the summer months. That would keep clubs going until the Autumn before returning to a full season’s programme of (the usual) competitions, probably the first weekend in September.
‘The WCL Committee will listen to our clubs, find out what they are in a position to do over the summer months and take all their feedback into consideration.
‘We know that a lot of our players are fed up with not having weekly games of soccer to look forward to. As chairman of the West Cork League, I’ve always been more interested in the local scene anyway, so I know exactly how those players feel. I’m sick of watching matches on television and would much prefer to travel to Clonakilty, Lyre or any of our grounds to watch a West Cork League match instead.’
It is not just the West Cork League’s male players that have missed football. The regions women’s teams are in exactly the same boat.
‘The questions that the WCL Committee are putting to male teams are the exact same as those put to our Women’s teams,’ Tim O’Donovan noted.
‘John Buckley (WCL Secretary) and I are constantly looking to expand the West Cork Women’s League. We have been asking clubs to recruit additional players as well as being on the lookout for any other clubs that might wish to join what have been hugely successful competitions over the last couple of years.
‘It is great that Kathy Kennefick has joined our WCL Committee as well and she has been very proactive in pushing women’s football in West Cork. Any teams that are interested in playing in the WCL Women’s League should contact any of our committee members as soon as possible. We will facilitate as many new players and teams as we can.’
The return of youths football is another hot topic being discussed throughout the West Cork region in recent weeks. Traditionally, U18 was the default age for the WCL Youths League but a willingness to increase that age-grade to U19 remains a possibility if only to accommodate more players and teams.
‘Clubs in West Cork have already been polled on the subject of a U18 or U19 grade,’ O’Donovan added.
‘Once we have responses back from all the clubs then a decision will be made by the end of next week. Whether it will be a U18 or U19 league is yet to be confirmed until we have feedback from everyone involved.
‘Irrespective of the age-grade the West Cork League decides upon, the whole decision making process is geared towards getting as many youth players out on the pitch and playing competitive matches as soon as we can. If that stays at U18 then so be it.’
So, in a nutshell, the West Cork League Committee will happily organise male, female and youth competitions during the upcoming summer months provided there is sufficient interest.
‘Originally, the idea of moving to summer soccer was something I was totally against if I am being honest,’ the WCL’s Tim O’Donovan admitted.
‘Yet, after witnessing what I saw last year, playing a large amount of our games during the summer meant we had the option of completing midweek fixtures. That’s a huge positive in my opinion so I’m slowly coming around to the idea (of summer soccer).
‘So, there could be mini-league and cup competitions during the summer months if enough interest is there. We wont force anything on our clubs. We will listen and react to whatever they want to do. Obviously, GAA league and championships being held during the summer will make it difficult for a lot of clubs. We are fully aware of that but I believe is something we can work around.’
In terms of the West Cork Schoolboys and Schoolgirls League, the current plan is to try and run the opening rounds of the SuperValu WCCSL Cups, most likely but not yet confirmed, on Saturday, June 12th.
One round of SuperValu WCSSL League fixtures is also provisionally being organised around that date with the possibility of those league games being held midweek.
Last year, the WCSSL came up with a novel restructuring of their regional cup competitions and it proved a big success. As part of the FAI’s safe return to football, each of the region’s knockout competitions were run off as mini-blitzes and completed before the end of August 2020. Designated venues housed each cup qualifying groups with all matches completed in one day. Following that, the semi-final and final rounds of the WCSSL Cups were also run off on the same day at a single (neutral) venue.
It is the West Cork Schoolboys and Schoolgirls League Committee’s intention to run their cup competitions in a similar manner once again this year.